ART Grand Prix has announced that GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez will graduate to GP2 next year with the team.

The 19-year-old Mexican won the inaugural GP3 Series for the French squad in 2010, and will step up to their GP2 operation for 2011. He will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg, who all won the category in their first seasons, driving for ART.

Gutierrez joined ART for the 2009 Formula 3 Euro Series season, having just won Formula BMW Europe the year before. He finished ninth in the F3 Euro Series standings, moving to the GP3 Series for 2010, which he dominated with four victories.

ART team boss Frederic Vasseur is pleased to continue their relationship. The team will begin a partnership with Group Lotus next year. “After our title in the GP3 Series, this is the logical next step to make with Esteban and I’m delighted our collaboration will bring him to the best F1 feeder series, the GP2 championship,” said Vasseur.

“Esteban is an extremely talented driver and despite his young age, is also very mature. He is an easy-going person and everyone at Lotus ART Team enjoys working with him and we look forward to racing with him again next season.”

Gutierrez is pleased to make the step up with a successful team like ART. “It will be a very interesting season and I am delighted to continue my career with Lotus ART Team because they are definitely one of the best race teams,” he said.

“The GP2 Series is a new exciting challenge with long races and pitstops as well as tyre management. There are a lot of new parameters that I will have to learn to cope with but with Lotus ART I am in the best school possible. I will do my best to make things run smoothly and hopefully I will have a good debut season.”

Gutierrez tested for the Sauber Formula 1 team last winter, and has since joined the team as its reserve driver. He is backed by Mexican telecommunications giant Telmex, which also supports current GP2 frontrunner Sergio Perez, who will race for Sauber next year.

Gutierrez’s promotion puts current ART GP2 driver Sam Bird at risk of losing his race seat. Jules Bianchi, who is managed by ART’s Nicolas Todt, is expected to remain with the team unless he can find a Formula 1 race seat, which looks unlikely.